Not much for school-report fodder, but in the annals of American invention, Otis definitely rates the attention this profile...

GOING UP!

ELISHA OTIS'S TRIP TO THE TOP

A buoyant if free-wheeling tribute to Otis—inventor not of elevators themselves, but of a safety brake that eased public fears of riding in them.

Intent on telling a colorful tale rather than a systematic one, Kulling injects more anachronisms (of an early inspiration, circa 1845: “Betsy could almost see the lightbulb over her husband’s head”) and invented dialogue into her account than dates or other specific details. She follows her subject from delightedly watching a hoist drop a load of hay during his Vermont childhood to a dramatically staged demonstration of his safety brake at New York’s 1854 World’s Fair. This is sandwiched between a poem on “Elevator Etiquette” and a quick closing wrap-up that serves in place of any source notes or other backmatter.  In his realistic, fine-lined illustrations, Parkins both enhances the sense of period and supplies the only hints of how Otis’ invention actually worked. He captures the narrative’s broad, high-energy tone in images of the inventor with eyes bulging, mouth wide open and arms flung out wildly during various Eureka! moments.

Not much for school-report fodder, but in the annals of American invention, Otis definitely rates the attention this profile (the first separate one for young readers since the 1970s) brings him. (Picture books/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-77049-240-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Produced to celebrate the National Park Service’s upcoming centenary, a breezy invitation to prospective travelers to “get...

OUR GREAT BIG BACKYARD

A family road trip through several national parks transforms young Jane’s feelings about missing out on a summer of online fun with her friends.

“There’s absolutely nothing to see here,” Jane emails fretfully as her family drives through the scenic Smoky Mountains and canoes past alligators and manatees in the Everglades. But once her dad gets her to put the tablet away and look through a telescope at the night skies over Big Bend National Park, her attitude transforms: “OH WOW!” Soon she’s tiptoeing over the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk like an acrobat, playing pirate on a raft down the Colorado River, scouting out “Mountain lions, buffalo, and bears. Oh my!” in Yellowstone—and, discovering that she’s misplaced her electronic device, sending written postcards to her friends from Yosemite. Furthermore, once back home, what better way to debrief than a backyard cookout under the stars? Giving blonde Jane and the rest of her white family broad, pleasant features, Rogers sends them smiling and singing their way through a succession of natural wonders, with bears and bald eagles, footnotes (adult supervision required on the Skywalk, for instance), and only a few fellow, occasionally diverse tourists in the background. Endpaper maps track the long itinerary, and a (select) list of other national parks and sites in each state offers more destinations.

Produced to celebrate the National Park Service’s upcoming centenary, a breezy invitation to prospective travelers to “get out there!” (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-246835-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

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Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book.

THE BOY AND THE SEA

A boy’s life is steered by and reflected in his relationship with the sea.

In a series of swirling, impressionistic, watercolor seascapes, a dark-haired, white-skinned boy is pictured at different life stages: as a young child; as a grown man with a family; and as an old man. At each stage, he receives a meaningful message from the sea. His moods are reflected in the moods of the sea, sometimes “dark and dangerous,” sometimes “tranquil and tender.” As the boy moves through the life stages, both he and the sea feel “the pull of something more.” He looks to the sea for answers to life’s questions, and sometimes they are answered—but just with a word: dream, love, be. Even when he is grown, he still does not know the answers to his questions. In its coverage of an entire life’s span, the book seems to be attempting to provide a universal message of guidance for growing up, but it’s too general and lacking in any kind of strong connection to be of value or of interest to a developing child. Small vignettes hint at adolescent conflicts, but so obliquely and superficially as to be valueless and at times obscure—particularly given that the audience for this book has not yet reached adolescence. That said, Bates’ paintings are lovely, capturing foamy, cresting waves in varying degrees of vigor; this seascape is never still. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Life’s questions remain unanswered in this attractive but frustratingly bland book. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4940-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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